Having (and utilzing) both a formatted and a plain text résumé is like a peanut butter cup. Each ingredient is great on their own, but so much better when you have both!
By Uri Allen, CPRW
These days, job seekers are inundated with so much conflicting information and suggestions; it can be hard to figure out what is the best way to format a résumé. Job seekers feel they are often faced with the decision to either make it look attractive or format it for practicality. In reality, every job seeker should have their résumé formatted both ways, both plain text and a fully formatted visually appealing version. A plain text version may not pack the visual punch on paper and a formatted version may look amazing but may cause problems when interfacing with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) so it is imporant to have both and know when to utilize them. Here are some guidelines to help you decide which version you should be using and when.
Plain Text Versions
A plain text version of the résumé is an integral tool for the job seeker who utilizes online job boards and internet employment search sites. Stripped-down, text only versions allow many online applications and tracking programs to easily parse information and pre-populate fields making the task of filling out these applications much more expeditious and time effective for the job seeker.
Plain text versions are also a preferred choice when emailing a résumé to an employer for a variety of reasons. Many employers will run emailed résumés through parsing or tracking systems and with a plain text version, the job seeker has less worry that the information will be properly scanned or read by these systems. Plain text résumés are also a safe bet since a job seeker can never really be sure of the word processing software employers are using to review emailed résumés. Avoiding sending a document with fancy formatting or stylish fonts and sending a plain text version almost always ensures that the résumé will appear consistently on your screen as it will on the employers screen.
Formatted, Visually Appealing Versions
However, the visually appealing résumé also has a definite place in the job seekers toolkit. The visually appealing, formatted version is great for those face-to-face connections such as networking, job fairs or interviews or when you are snail mailing or faxing the résumé to a potential employer.
There are a few things to remember when creating the visually appealing version. Make sure that the résumé has a good balance of white space; information shouldn’t appear too crowded and if possible, printed on a good quality résumé paper. Make sure to avoid consistency errors and don’t over format the résumé.
With any résumé, formatted or not, it is always a good idea to have the résumé reviewed and critiqued by a certified résumé writer. Often times, a certified résumé writer can identify things you may have missed or overlooked or they make suggestions to improve the résumé further. They are also trained in the most up-to-date methods and techniques to maximize your résumés effectiveness. Visit http://jobcenter.usa.gov/ to locate an employment center nearest you and set up a time to meet with a certified résumé writer.